How would one refer to/address a Shogun?

How would one refer to/address a Shogun?

In the Bakumatsu era, how would one refer to a shogun (when talking about him with someone else) or address him directly if talking to him? Is it just name + -sama suffix?

I am interest in the answer from both a shogun loyalist perspective (e.g a member of the Shinsengumi) and from an anti-shogunal/pro-imperialist perspective.

There are two forms of address that might be used: oyakata-sama and tono. Tono is somewhat less formal.

If speaking about him in the third person, a person might say watakushitachi no tono ("our lord"), or even his name with -sama. In some cases, well-known figures had popular nicknames.

Oyakata-sama is what his/her troops would most likely call the Lord, it is something people below the Lord would refer to him/her as.

When it's came to the Shogun himself it would vary but I'm sure -sama would be included with their last name such as Tokugawa-sama, Ieyasu-sama, etc. It is a sign of superiority, then again they can go with the full title of Sei-i Taishogun, even being given the chance to see the Shogun through multitudes of guards and schedules you'd be expected to do something.

What is a Synoptic Essay and How Do I Write One?

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Part of the A-Level History course now involves a synoptic element. This involves examining change and reasons for change over a fixed period of time. This is usually around 100 years. If you are writing a synoptic essay, a slightly different approach is needed. You will need to give an overview of your understanding of the major themes studied in the unit/subject (and within the context), often indicating how your understanding of the themes has developed over time. This can be quite difficult to get right.

Japanese Family Life: A Historical Perspective

(Image: Marzolino/Shutterstock)

Studying Everyday Life in Japan

How parents raise their children is one of the main ways that culture and tradition are conveyed from generation to generation. When we generalize and say that the Japanese, Australians, or the French act a particular way, we’re talking about habits and attitudes that are first learned in the home. How to eat, address strangers, when to smile, are things you learn at home from a young age, including what makes for a good marriage partner. We begin to learn these behaviors before we are even aware of it, by watching our parents.

Beginning with the court society of the Heian era through today, across 10 centuries, there are three main models of the Japanese family. First, there’s the aristocratic model or the uji. Second, there’s the samurai model, or the ie. Finally, there’s the modern model of Japanese family life.

This is a transcript from the video series Understanding Japan: A Cultural History. Watch it now, Wondrium.

Historically those three models overlapped to some degree, but we can think of the uji model as dominant until the 1200s, the ie model as dominant from the 1300s until the 1900s, and the modern family as largely a postwar phenomenon. How are these family “systems” different? Both the uji and ie models featured lots of children and intergenerational connections, whereas the modern Japanese family is largely a nuclear family of two parents and one or two children. One important difference is scale, but the other is structure. Uji were sprawling family units, with many branches and complex kinship ties. Uji means “clan” ie, by contrast, means “household,” and the ie family model was more linear, with a clear patriarch and a clear, single-stranded line of succession.

The Uji Model of Family Life

Emperor Hirohito and members of the Kyū-Miyake. (Image: By photographer is unknown – domain)

The uji model was suitable for a marriage politics approach to power. If you have lots of daughters and sons, you marry them all over the place. Then you have many in-laws, nieces, nephews, and grandchildren, all over. You can then use blood ties to build a dense web of political alliances. This sort of marriage politics was a central feature of Heian-period Japan.

To allow for these fluid webs of power, Heian marriages had multiple patterns. It’s difficult to describe exactly how marriages worked in Heian aristocratic families because there are so many variations. A husband and wife could live separately, they could live together with the wife’s parents, they could live together with the husband’s parents, or form their own household. Even after marriage, however, Heian noblewomen kept control of their own property and they could dispose of it without their husband’s approval. Heian-era women wrote their own wills. Sometimes it’s tempting to make a strict contrast between matriarchy and patriarchy, and Heian society offers us a good reason not to do that because in the Heian court, keeping women independent in their marriage often served their fathers’ interests. Remember that at the apex of power, the game was to marry your daughter to the emperor, so that the next emperor could be your grandson. Keeping women independent in marriage was partly about securing power for their fathers.

For example, according to Kamakura law, if a man gave property to his wife and he then divorced her, he could only reclaim the land if he could prove that she was guilty of some serious transgression. Early samurai law seems to have enabled women to perpetuate their own family lines independent of their husbands. Childless women, or women without sons, could adopt a male heir to convey property. Moreover, when women inherited their husband’s land rights, the shogunate allowed them to manage the land just like any male vassal would. Women could proxies to do certain vassal duties, like military service, but they could manage the estates on their own.

Hōjō Masako…was the wife of the first Kamakura shogun, Minamoto no Yoritomo, and she was arguably the single most powerful person in the early 1200s.

This period of fluidity produced one of the most powerful women in Japanese history, Hōjō Masako. Masako was the wife of the first Kamakura shogun, Minamoto no Yoritomo, and she was arguably the single most powerful person in the early 1200s. In fact, the Hōjō family displaced the Minamoto. Hōjō men ruled as regents to child shoguns, and for all practical purposes, the Minamoto line died out as a ruling house.

Hōjō Masako, the wife of the first Kamakura shogun, became the most powerful person in the early 1200s in Japanese due to the rights given to married women by the Kamakura law. (Image: Kikuchi Yōsai/Public domain)

Hōjō Masako effectively ran the Kamakura shogunate after her husband’s death in 1199. She did not remarry, and that might have raised questions about her loyalty and chastity. Instead, she became a Buddhist nun, but that was simply a cover to allow her to wield power indirectly. She is sometimes referred to as the Nun shogun—the Ama shogun.

As a power behind the throne, Masako removed male figureheads who opposed her, including her son and her father. She was also instrumental in rallying Minamoto vassals to crush an uprising against the shogunate in 1221. What is noteworthy about Hōjō Masako’s life is that she commonly ruled in concert with a male relative—her son, father, or brother, and she was discrete about her power. There’s no question that she was decisive in sustaining the Hōjō and their control over the shogunate. Hōjō Masako can be thought of as emblematic of women in the early stages of warrior rule when women could still control their own property and manage their affairs.

The Ie Structure of Family Life

However, this began to break down in the late 13th century. As Samurai culture developed, so did the ie structure. A decisive factor was probably the Mongol invasions of 1274 and 1281. Resisting the Mongols required real combat, and having women send proxies didn’t fit that need. In any case, by the late 1300s, women had largely lost the right to inherit or amass property, and families began to have a single clear male patriarch, who had commanding authority over his wife and children.

…a patriarch was commonly succeeded by a single patriarch, usually his eldest son, and that meant that everyone in the household, was under that eldest son, not just the son’s wife, but also his brothers and sisters…

Interestingly, under the ie system, the power of the household head, the patriarch, was not limited to power over women and children: Household heads also had authority over their siblings. A patriarch was commonly succeeded by a single patriarch, usually his eldest son, and that meant that everyone in the household was under that eldest son, not just the son’s wife, but also his brothers and sisters. His sisters remained there at least until they married and entered someone else’s house. Because the ie system did not favor partible inheritance, younger sons often needed their elder brother’s permission to marry, because a younger brother’s wife would be entering the elder brother’s household, and any children of that marriage would be members of the elder brother’s household.

Early-modern laws reflected samurai attitudes. Legal documents tended to squeeze commoner families into a samurai mold, but farm families simply didn’t think about women in the same way. For farm families, some level of compatibility between husband and wife was important, especially if it was a less wealthy family, and the couple needed to work together to make ends meet. Attitudes between the classes towards both marriage and divorce were different. For a samurai woman leaving, your husband and returning to your parents’ house was parallel to a soldier deserting his post. But commoners weren’t soldiers, so that analogy didn’t hold. Instead, we find that farm families also placed a greater emphasis on marital happiness or at least compatibility.

How did modern attitudes shift from those for family life in the Heian era through the Tokugawa shogunate? With the Meiji Restoration, the new government attempted to create a national standard of civil law. They didn’t complete the project until the 1890s, but they wiped away the idiosyncrasies of local laws and customs. To a large degree, these reforms pushed samurai attitudes towards the family on to the rest of society. Meiji law sort of merged samurai and Victorian attitudes towards the family, and effectively codified the idea that women have inferior rights to men.

Ironically, women actually lost some rights in the late 19th century.

Ironically, women actually lost some rights in the late 19th century. In some Tokugawa-era villages, for example, property-holding households voted to elect their village headman, and while household heads were commonly men, widows with young children could serve as household heads in those circumstances, women voted. But then, in the Meiji era, those women lost the right to vote.

Modern Japanese Family Life

To truly explore the modern model of family life we need to look beyond the Meiji Restoration. Because the striking change in family structure didn’t come until the U.S. occupation after World War II. The first thing we notice is a huge change, stemming largely from the postwar constitution. That constitution was heavily influenced by U.S. progressive politics. The constitution, for example, has language for equal rights. Women are fully equal to men before the law, and family law must be based on, “individual dignity and the essential equality of the sexes.” The constitution also stipulates that marriage should be, “maintained through mutual cooperation with the equal rights of husband and wife as a basis.”

In constitutional law, Japan is a paradise of gender equality, except that some aspects of Japanese civil law still reflect the old ie system. For example, in Japan, everyone is registered in a koseki, a household register. Since everyone in a household should have the same family name, the koseki system makes it difficult for women to keep their original family name after marriage. While this is technically just an administrative matter, it tends to collide with the constitutional idea that everyone is equal and an individual before the law.

Perhaps the biggest challenge for families in modern Japan is the low birth rate and low rate of family formation. In the 1920s, a Japanese woman had, on average, more than five children it then dropped to around two in the 1950s and today it’s around 1.4. Japan’s low birthrate is not remarkable for an economically developed country—roughly the same as Italy and Germany, and it’s higher than South Korea’s.

In the 1950s, a Japanese woman had on average two children. A drop from the average of fve children was observed in 1920s. Today it is around 1.4. (Image: By Unknown – Japanese magazine “Photograph Gazette, May 1954 issue” published by Government of Japan/Public domain)

In Japan, women are delaying marriage and limiting fertility because they can earn money independently and they can travel and enjoy themselves. But at the same time, child-rearing is extremely demanding and government support is limited.

When it comes to finding a man to marry, until the 1980s, a Japanese man with a white-collar job in a major corporation could count on steady employment for the rest of his life, and that made him an attractive marriage partner. But Japan’s long recession has undermined that career path, and in Japan, as almost everywhere in the world, men with low incomes and unstable jobs are much less attractive as marriage partners.

For years the Japanese government has been in a state of mild panic over low Japanese fertility. Because Japan has the highest life expectancy in the world, demographers see a tidal wave of gray in Japan’s future: A huge population of elderly men and women and a shrinking working-age population, therefore leads to a shrinking tax base.

Family Life in the 21st Century

But things seem to have snapped in 2005 when the Japanese population actually began shrinking. Deaths outnumbered births for the first time since the last years of World War II. As a result, the government has been talking a new language since 2005. Japanese bureaucrats discovered “flex-time,” “work-life balance,” and they began talking about the need for government and business to support working men and women, both as parents, in both law and policy. This is a sea change from the attitudes that prevailed in Japan for most of the postwar era. Now, the early results are promising: The birth rate has stopped dropping and has ticked up a bit since 2005. But reversing, Japan’s shrinking population will only happen as part of a series of broader changes, changing attitudes towards family structures, a new understanding of gender roles, and new attitudes towards work in an era of sluggish economic growth.

If that sounds familiar, it’s because many of the challenges facing Japanese families are similar to those facing families around the developed world.

Common Questions About Japanese Family Life

Japanese families are much like American nuclear families: Generally, the married couple resides with any children and possibly a grandparent.

Family is very important to the Japanese as they are not individualistic and so the family acts as an entity for whom the needs are more important than the needs of the individual members.

The living spaces in Japan help to determine the size of the family . Typically it is just the nuclear unit living together with any relatives living perhaps nearby.

No. The Japanese encourage families to have 2.1 children to keep up with population loss. However, the current average is around 1.4.


For most of the period between 1192 and 1867, the government of Japan was dominated by hereditary warlords called shoguns. The word shogun means “general.” The government of a shogun is called a shogunate. The term used in Japan to describe their rule is bakufu, which literally means “tent government” and suggests the field headquarters of a general while on campaign.

The term shogun was first used about 720 to refer to the military commanders who campaigned against the Ainu or other tribal groups of northern Japan. Of these early generals the best known was Sakanoue Tamuramaro late in the 8th century. For the next 400 years the title of shogun was little used. Then, in the late 12th century, Minamoto Yoshinaka revived it when fighting a rival military family and its followers. His cousin Minamoto Yoritomo achieved military domination of the whole country in 1185, and the emperor appointed him shogun in 1192.

As the shoguns acquired increased control over national affairs, they became the actual rulers of Japan. The emperors lived mostly in seclusion and had only formal powers.

There were three shogunates. That founded by Minamoto Yoritomo in 1192 lasted until 1333 and was based in Kamakura. It was thus known as the Kamakura shogunate. The second, dominated by the Ashikaga family, was based in Kyoto and lasted from 1338 until 1573. It is called the Ashikaga shogunate. The third was founded by Tokugawa Ieyasu. Its headquarters were at Edo (modern Tokyo), and it was in power from 1603 until 1867. It is known as either the Tokugawa or Edo shogunate.

Not all of the shoguns were powerful generals. In spite of the leadership conferred on the shoguns by the emperors, other warlords often contested the authority of shoguns, sometimes successfully. Of the Kamakura shoguns, all but the first were figureheads. None of the members of the Ashikaga family controlled Japan entirely. The most successful were the Tokugawa shoguns, but of these only five or six actually dominated all of Japan.

The Kamakura shogunate, which was founded in 1192, eventually took over all the administrative, military, and judicial functions of government. Minamoto Yoritomo appointed regional warlords as heads of provinces and stewards to supervise the individual estates into which the provinces were divided. His successors, however, were unable to hold onto the reins of power. The much stronger Hojo family seized power after Minamoto Yoritomo died in 1199. The Hojo family served as regents for the next two Minamoto shoguns, and after 1219 they filled the post of shogun with members of the nobility from Kyoto.

With the help of Ashikaga Takauji, the Hojo family was displaced in 1333. Other rebellions were put down in the next few years. In 1338 Ashikaga assumed the title of shogun, based on a supposed relationship to the Minamoto family. The position of the Ashikaga shoguns was rarely secure. They usually ruled with the cooperation of lesser warlords. The 15th and last of the line was driven out of office in 1573 by Oda Nobunaga. Since neither Oda Nobunaga nor his successor, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, was related to the Minamotos, they did not use the title of shogun.

The years after 1573 were unsettled, as each warlord tried to carve out an independent domain for himself. But in 1600, at the Battle of Sekigahara, Tokugawa Ieyasu defeated all opposition. In 1603 he was given the title of shogun by the emperor, based on a questionable descent from the Minamoto family. This first of the Tokugawas has been celebrated by James Clavell in his novel Shogun, published in 1975.

Although the Tokugawa shogunate lasted 264 years, it kept itself in power mostly by playing one faction against another. The Tokugawas provided the most centralized government that Japan had yet experienced. By shrewd diplomacy and some military might, they controlled the local daimyos, or feudal barons the emperor and the religious institutions. To help preserve order the hereditary distinctions dividing the four social classes were strictly maintained.

During their last 30 years in power, the Tokugawas fended off peasant revolts and uprisings among the samurai, or warrior class. By the 1860s a general demand for the return to power of the emperor had emerged. The last shogun, Tokugawa Yoshinobu, was forced to resign and yield administration of civil and military affairs to the emperor in what has been called the Meiji Restoration.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Evil Book Redeemed: Alexander Bennett's Translation Of The Hagakure

For years, the Hagakure (along with its spiritual cousin, "Bushido: The Soul of Japan") has been the bane of the Samurai Archives. Often taken by neophytes to the study of Japanese history as the 'official training manual of samurai down through time', it has been the indirect cause of much buffoonery and has left a trail of misconceptions in its wake. Many 'modern sammyrai' claiming to follow its tenets turn out to have never read the book at all, instead quoting heavily from sensationalistic (and often out-of-context) passages reprinted ad nauseam by pop culture books-the most notorious being the mantra "The Way of the Samurai is Found in Death". Recently we were given the opportunity to look at Tuttle Publishing's new translation: "Hagakure, The Secret Wisdom of the Samurai" by Alexander Bennett, a Ph.D currently teaching Japanese history and society as an Associate Professor at Kansai University. Bennett is also a proficient martial artist (among other things, Vice President of the International Naginata Federation and Editor of "Kendo World" magazine). That's an interesting and rarely seen blend of scholarship and practical experience with traditional Japanese martial arts, with perhaps Karl Friday being the only other prominent example-and not coincidentally, Friday highly recommended the book. This recommendation, along with Bennett's background, was enough to convince us that it was finally time to face the Evil Book head-on and see if it deserved the reputation (either good or bad) that it has acquired over the years.

Before we examine Bennett's translation, it would be helpful to give some background on the authors of the original text. As Bennett explains, Yamamoto Tsunetomo was born in 1659 and was a retainer of the Saga domain in Kyushu ruled by the Nabeshima. While extremely feeble and sickly as a boy, through hard work and determination he managed to overcome his frail constitution. At the age of 14 he was made a page of the Lord at the time (Nabeshima Mitsushige) but was dismissed from service for being complicit in the Lord's son's fixation with poetry. Using this time to educate himself in matters of Buddhism and Confucianism, he was reemployed by the domain at age 24. His 'greatest exploit' came in 1700 when he managed to locate and procure an extremely rare text (the 'Kokin-denju', a commentary on a renowned book of poetry) after an extensive search and raced back to Saga just in time to deliver it to his Lord before his passing. When Mitsushige died, Tsunetomo wished to follow him in death (known as 'junshi') as was sometimes done in previous eras however, both his domain and the Tokugawa government had passed laws forbidding this. Instead, he took up the tonsure, taking the Buddhist name Jocho and retired to Kurotsuchibaru. It was here that he was sought out by a younger Nabeshima clansman named Tashiro Tsuramoto. Tsuramoto had been relieved of duty in 1709 and in 1710 began to visit Jocho for counsel. In 1716, he compiled the conversations with Jocho into the first copy of the Hagakure. While there have been several different variants of the Hagakure published through the year, Bennett has chosen the Kohaku version as it is generally considered to be the one closest to the lost original. His translation covers the entirety of the the first two books (the first time this has been done in English), the ones that were filled exclusively with Jocho's material. A third chapter covers selections from books 3-11, which contained material Tsuramoto gathered from other sources as well as vignettes possibly from Jocho. Each chapter has extensive footnotes which provide a wealth of cultural and explanatory material.

By far, the most impressive part of the book for us was Bennett's introductory chapter-"Hagakure in Context". It puts the Hagakure into its proper historical and social setting as well as examining 'bushido' (interestingly, Bennett notes that the term 'bushido' first appeared in the 'Koyo Gunkan', a treatise on Takeda Shingen written by a former retainer) with a critical eye and a look at how Jocho's life experiences and psychology is reflected in the work-and does so elegantly and brilliantly. This translation is well worth picking up just on the strength of this chapter. From the somewhat vague symbolism of the title (is Hagakure-literally 'hidden by leaves'-a reference to a poem by Buddhist scholar Saigyo Hoshi? Perhaps just a simple reference to the hermitage where the meetings between Jocho and Tsuramoto took place? Or a reference to one of the book's recurring themes, serving from behind the scenes?) to the appropriation of the book for various agendas by both 20th century Japanese and Westerners, Bennett examines the book from a variety of angles. Bennett states that the book is vastly misunderstood both inside and outside Japan, and perhaps that is why Jocho encouraged Tsuramoto to burn it upon completion (to prevent it from being read by those who could never understand the spirit in which it was written).

Bennett shows how Jocho was bitter at the "disintegration of warrior norms over previous decades", "anti-Shogunate sentiment", had a nostalgic longing for the previous regimes and decried how young samurai "talk of money, about profit and loss, their household financial problems, taste in fashion, and idle chatter of sex". At one point in the book, Jocho flatly states that there are "no good men". However, Bennett also shows how Jocho realized that the nature of service had changed in the time of peace and a good retainer had to change as well. This passion for the older days mixed with Jocho's call for a new type of service based on loyalty and dedication to duty rather than martial valor resulted in many apparent contradictions within the book, including some of its most famous passages. Should a vassal rush headlong into danger, or should he seek a more peaceful alternative? Does one persistently correct the Lord and let him know when he is wrong, or does one carry out the letter of his commands unquestioningly? You should always follow out the Lord's commands, except when you don't. While mastering an art is detrimental to the way of the samurai, when can its study actually be beneficial? There are passages that seem to exhort the virtues of each. Bennett demonstrates how many of these can be explained away by Jocho's splitting one's service as a youth and as an adult-as well as how one's position inside the hierarchy of the samurai chain of command affected one's actions. Indeed, it shows how the Hagakure was an excellent microcosm of the identity crisis of Edo period samurai-how to keep the virtues of a warrior society alive in a time where they were no longer used? This is perhaps best shown in Jocho's criticism of the Ako Ronin, a group that itself exemplified how martial values no longer fit into Edo society.

As interesting as Hagakure's contemporary setting was, Bennett's examination of how it emerged into the world of the 20th century with its first out-of-domain printing in 1906 (contrary to popular belief, it was virtually unknown outside of a select few in Saga domain before then) is even more so. Does Hagakure represent a 'mystical beauty intrinsic to the Japanese aesthetic experience', or is it a 'text that epitomizes all that is abhorrent in terms of mindless sacrifice, as well as a loathsome depreciation of the value of life and blind obedience to authority'? Invented tradition? A window into the complex ethics of the Tokugawa world? Or simply the 'seditious ramblings of a disgruntled curmudgeon'?

A careful reading of Hagakure will reveal elements of all of these. But at its heart, Bennett believes it can be summed up by four simple oaths Jocho repeats throughout the text (none of which involve finding the way of the samurai in death):

-Never lag behind others in the Way of the Warrior

-Be ready to be useful to one's Lord

And the final one-a point which is noticeably absent from oft-reprinted quotes of the Hagakure, but which fills the book with its spirit:

-Serve for the benefit of others with a heart of great compassion

All precepts whose underpinning philosophy is as applicable to today as it was in 1710.

What does Jocho see as the essence of being a samurai? According to Book 2/7, it to devotion in both body and soul to his Lord, along with the virtues of wisdom, benevolence, and courage. In other sections he outlines that devotion is the only way for a samurai of his times to be recognized since martial valor is no longer an option-an eminently practical attitude. Wisdom comes from listening to others. Benevolence is for the sake of others. And courage goes back to the 'found in death' idea (more on that later). Proper grooming, speech, and handwriting are also important. Again, all very practical concepts for finding success in the Edo period.

Reading Hagakure reinforces much of the recent scholarship being done on samurai of the Edo period. For example, Luke Roberts's concepts of 'omote' and 'uchi'-basically 'surface' and 'beneath the surface'-is a common theme in Hagakure. Jocho stresses often that it is better to forgive the failings of others, especially social inferiors, even making excuses for them rather than criticize them harshly. In essence, while their failures are recognized ('uchi'), they are politely papered over and ignored ('omote'). This allows that person to retain their pride, forestall resentment, and encourage them to become better for next time. Avoiding conflict is stressed to be every bit as important as ending it swiftly when it does happen.

That Jocho has a realistic view of the world is confirmed in Book 2/18: "Current trends cannot be stopped. any desire to return to the 'good old days' of a hundred years ago is futile. Accordingly, it is important to try and improve the ways of the present. It is for this reason that men who hold a nostalgic view of the past are misguided". He goes on to state that the customs and traditions of old should still be kept in mind in order to differentiate between core principles and minor details. While Jocho saw the value in remembering the past, he didn't seem to promote living there.

Even the oft-quoted 'The Way of the Samurai is found in death' takes on a new meaning when read in its proper context. Bolied down to its core, it says to simply do your best in everything and approach every situation fearlessly as if it is your last day on earth-to not hold back out of a fear of dying or failing. It's not necessarily about rushing head-on alone into a nest of bandits determined to die a glorious death-although it COULD be, and forms the basis for Jocho's criticism of the 47 Ronin (that their calculating manner showed too much concern for their own safety rather than performing the task at hand).

And aside from the cultural and historical aspects of Jocho's work (and the tales of others in books 3-11), the stories have a good deal of entertainment value-they're often charming and fun to read. You'll learn how a good samurai should always be able to perform at least one action after his head has been cut off-hey, wasn't Nitta Yoshisada able to bury his own body after being decapitated (more realistically, this is simply an exhortation to fight to one's dying breath)? Samurai grew mustaches to ensure a head taken was that of a man and not a woman-no slain samurai would want their head discarded, after all! 18 foot long giant snakes show up. Discussions of how to attack gaijin in Nagasaki harbor (in the wake of an unscheduled 1673 visit by English ships) are laid out in a detailed battle plan. Giving bodyguards progressively larger swords as a training tactic is examined. There's a tale of how a wily woman made herself sexually unattractive to even that horndog of note Toyotomi Hideyoshi. For more womanly hijinks, we read the saga of how a woman marched her man into battle after he had been beaten up by three farmers. Jocho even comments on his own situation, stating that everyone over 60 is senile (although he would have been around 50-55 at the time) and that applies to him. Drunken lords, seppuku, stupid samurai, liars, poseurs, harlots, and even Jocho's thoughts regarding Shudo (male homosexuality, usually between an older samurai and a younger charge-Jocho advocates "secret love", an internal burning love for another that is never revealed, thus allowing one to devote his energies to service) all make for good reading. They're also all short, usually just a paragraph or two, making this a good book to pick up and read passages at random or when you only have a few minutes. Again, the insights given by Jocho and others into what it was to be an Edo period samurai-along with a look at the culture and values of the day-are varied and extensive.

Also available from Tuttle are recently republished versions of two Thomas Cleary books that likewise examine the thoughts of influential Edo period intellectuals and swordsmen on the changing roles of samurai and the ethics of a time of peace. While Cleary's historical notes for the collections are not as strong as Bennett's (in some cringe-worthy examples, he states Oda Nobunaga converted to Christianity and forced all his vassals to do the same and that Takeda Shingen never lost a battle), the translations he does are excellent. "Soul of the Samurai: Modern Translation of Three Classic Works of Zen & Bushido" collects Monk Takuan's (who we covered in an earlier article on the Shogun-ki) "The Inscrutable Subtlety of Immovable Wisdom" and "Tai-A-Ki: Notes on the Peerless Sword" along with daimyo/swordmaster Yagyu Munenori's "Martial Arts: The Book of Family Traditions". "Samurai Wisdom: Lessons from Japan's Warrior Culture" goes a step further with no less than five translated texts: Confucian scholar Yamaga Soko's "The Way of the Knight (Samurai)", "The Education of Warriors", and the "Primer of Martial Education", his son Takatsune's "Essentials of Military Matters" and Tsugaru Kodo-shi's (a grandson of Soko's) "The Warrior's Rule". These books provide a fascinating glimpse into the psyche of Edo period samurai and their struggles to retain the skills of war while remaining relevant in a time of peace, and they're also easily affordable.

Now, as to using these books as a blueprint for one's own life in the modern world-while they do embody certain universal values and you can certainly learn from then, you'd be far better served (in our opinion) picking up a work that was written with modern values, culture, and mores than using something written for a centuries old culture. The samurai and monks who wrote these treatises certainly realized that living in the past was no solution and that they needed to adapt to the times-and perhaps that is the most valuable lesson to be learned from these works.

Until recently we never thought that anything positive could come out of a study of the Hagakure, but Alexander Bennett's translation and historical acumen have changed all that. Put in its proper context, the book is an excellent tool for a look into what being an Edo period retainer was all about-from the high to the low, from the old to the young, and the changing roles assumed as one went through life. And Yamamoto's stories and anecdotes make for delightful reading on their own. The legendary Evil Book has been redeemed, and can now be appreciated for the insight it brings to the world of the warrior during the Edo period.

The Hagakure is available through the SA Store via Amazon or directly through Tuttle Publishing.

Informally Addressing the Former President

Now, let’s look a little closer. In an informal setting (such as a private lunch), it’s acceptable to use the title the ex-official held. Here, you could refer to former President Jimmy Carter as either “President Carter” or “Mr. Carter.” In reality, many people ignore this convention and refer to former Presidents as "President Last Name" when they are in settings where nearly everyone would afford them the honor of the title. Technically, this is still incorrect but there are enough former Presidents allowing this that it has become a somewhat common mistake.


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The Senator Who Stood Up to Joseph McCarthy When No One Else Would

“It is high time we stopped thinking politically as Republicans and Democrats about elections and started thinking patriotically as Americans about national security based on individual freedom.”

Those words, spoken by Margaret Chase Smith, freshman senator from Maine, never mentioned Joseph McCarthy by name, but it was abundantly clear to all who listened that her criticisms were leveled directly at him. Her speech represented a highlight for the congressional maverick with a career full of similar moments of bipartisanship.

Earlier that day, June 1, 1950, Smith had bumped into the bombastic Wisconsin senator as they made their way to work. Only four months earlier, McCarthy had delivered an inflammatory speech claiming 205 people working in the State Department were secretly communists. Since then, Smith had been closely following his words and actions, meant to undermine the Democratic party and seed suspicion everywhere.

According to journalist Marvin Kalb, the senators’ interaction that morning was a prelude of what was to come. McCarthy regarded Smith and noted, “Margaret, you look very serious. Are you going to make a speech?”

“Yes, and you will not like it,” she responded.

After passing out copies of the speech to the press gallery, Smith approached the Senate floor and began her “Declaration of Conscience.” In it, she addressed what she saw as McCarthy’s dangerous accusations and the partisan bickering it resulted in.

“Those of us who shout the loudest about Americanism in making character assassinations are all too frequently those who, by our own words and acts, ignore some of the basic principles of Americanism,” Smith said, in another thinly veiled jab at McCarthy’s tactics. Importantly, she was also quick to point out the Truman administration had failed to do enough to prevent the spread of communism at home and abroad. But her conclusion called on all politicians, regardless of party affiliation, to stand for the defense of civil liberties.

“It is high time that we all stopped being tools and victims of totalitarian techniques—techniques that, if continued here unchecked, will surely end what we have come to cherish as the American way of life,” said Smith.

It was a remarkable moment, not only because Smith was a woman, or the first person to speak out against McCarthy, but because she was willing to speak out against her fellow Republicans. Again and again over the 32 years she spent in Congress, Smith defended her values, even when it meant opposing the GOP—and even when it cost her personally.

Smith’s political career began shortly after she married Clyde Harold Smith, who was elected to the House of Representatives in 1936. Margaret traveled with her husband to Washington, D.C., where she managed his office, and, in 1940, before the end of his term, Clyde asked Margaret to run for his seat just before he died of a fatal heart condition. Not only did she win the special election to finish his term, she won her own full term in Congress by running on a platform of supporting pensions for the elderly and military expansion.

Over the next eight years, Smith repeatedly won reelection to the House as a Republican, though she mostly followed her own conscience and frequently voted across party lines. She sponsored legislation to make women recognized members of the military rather than volunteers and voted against making the House Select Committee on Un-American Activities (which investigated communism) a permanent committee. She would also support Democratic legislation like FDR’s Lend-Lease program.

When one of Maine’s senators chose not to return in 1947, she decided to run for his seat. According to a biography from the United States House of Representatives, “The state Republican Party, stung by Smith’s many votes across party lines, opposed her candidacy and supported Maine Governor Horace A. Hildreth in the four-way race.” But Smith earned far more votes than any of her opponents, becoming the first woman to serve in both the House and the Senate.

When McCarthy began his accusations of communism run amok in the American government, Smith, like many others, was initially concerned that he might be right. She had been a fervent anti-communist throughout her political career and introduced a bill to outlaw the Communist Party in 1953, three years after her speech against McCarthy. What she didn’t agree with were her colleague from Wisconsin’s tactics—the fearmongering, the smearing of reputations, and finding people guilty before they had a chance to defend themselves.

“She was worried that what [McCarthy] was doing was undermining the anti-communism movement, that his methods were going too far,” says historian Mary Brennan, author of Wives, Mothers, and the Red Menace.

It soon became clear that McCarthy had grossly exaggerated his claims. By the spring of 1950, Smith said, “Distrust became so widespread that many dared not accept dinner invitations lest at some future date McCarthy might level unproved charges against someone who had been at the same dinner party.” Smith decided to act, since no one else seemed willing to, and gave her speech with the support of only six other Republican senators.

McCarthy’s response was typical of his behavior to any critics: he dismissed her, nicknaming Smith and her colleagues “Snow White and the Six Dwarfs.” Meanwhile, media outlets like the Saturday Evening Post shamed Smith and her co-signers for being communist-sympathizers, calling them “the soft underbelly of the Republican Party.”

Yet Smith received a large share of praise as well as censure. Newsweek pondered whether Smith might be the next vice president, while financier and statesman Bernard Baruch went even further, stating that if a man had given such a speech “he would be the next president.” Smith received campaign donations from across the country for the 1952 elections, Brennan says, all of which she politely returned, saying she was running in a state race, not a national one.

But for all the furor her speech produced, Smith quickly fell out of the limelight when North Korean forces invaded the South at the end of June. “The boiling intensity of the Cold War had the ironic effect of sidelining Smith and elevating McCarthy, whose anticommunist crusade only grew wider and stronger,” Kalb writes in Enemy of the People: Trump’s War on the Press, the New McCarthyism, and the Threat to American Democracy.

The one person who didn’t forget Smith’s speech was McCarthy himself. “Her support for the United Nations, New Deal programs, support for federal housing and social programs placed her high on the list of those against whom McCarthy and his supporters on local levels sought revenge,” writes Gregory Gallant in Hope and Fear in Margaret Chase Smith’s America. When McCarthy gained control of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (which monitored government affairs), he took advantage of the position to remove Smith from the group, replacing her with acolyte Richard Nixon, then a senator from California. Although she remained a member of the Republican party, party leaders never quite knew how to make sense of her, Brennan says.

“I don’t know that she would’ve felt a lot of loyalty to the Republican Party the way some others did. There was a sense that they didn’t like what McCarthy was doing, but he was attacking the Democrats and that was good. And she came along and said, that’s true, but he’s undermining our cause and that’s bad.”

Despite being briefly sidelined by McCarthy for standing her ground, Smith remained a savvy enough politician to survive. She held a record for casting 2,941 consecutive roll call votes between 1955 and 1968, which was interrupted only by her recovery from hip surgery. And in 1964, she announced she was running for President. Though she never made it past the primaries, she still became the first woman to have her name put in for nomination for the presidency by a major political party.

As for the incident with McCarthy, Smith wasn’t the one who to bring him down or spur others to action. He wouldn’t fall until 1954, after considerable damage had been done. But Smith did vote to censure him in 1954, and, Brennan says, she refused to sign a card from other Republicans apologizing for censuring him.

“That was the thing about her,” Brennan says. “She was very much what you’d think of when you think of a stereotypical Yankee. This is the principal, this is what I’m standing for, and I’m not deviating from this.”

5. Yumi

Japanese samurai with yumi, 16th century (Credit: Lepidlizard).

The yumi was an asymmetric Japanese longbow and an important weapon of the samurai during the feudal period of Japan. It would shoot Japanese arrows known as ya.

Traditionally made of laminated bamboo, wood and leather, the yumi was exceptionally tall at over two metres and exceeded the height of the archer.

The yumi had a long history in Japan, as the samurai were mounted warriors who used the bow and arrow as their primary weapon while on horseback.

Although the samurai were best known for their swordsmanship with the katana, kyūjutsu (“art of archery”) was actually considered a more vital skill.

During the majority of the Kamakura and Muromachi periods (c. 1185-1568), the yumi was almost exclusively the symbol of the professional warrior, and the way of life of the warrior was called kyūba no michi (“the way of the horse and bow”).

History Ashikaga Clan

The Ashikaga (足利) were a warrior family of the twelfth to the sixteenth centuries and with the Nitta (新田) family one of the two major descendants of the Seiwa Genji (清和源) branch of the Minamoto family. The Ashikaga rose to prominence in the fourteenth century under Ashikaga Takauji, who established the Muromachi shogunate (1338-1573). Fifteen shoguns of the Ashikaga family ruled Japan during two and a half centuries of political and social disorder. Under the Ashikaga the arts flourished, winning them an eminent place in Japanese cultural history.


The Ashikaga family was founded by Minamoto no Yoshiyasu (源義康, died 1157), a grandson of Minamoto no Yoshiie, the most renowned member of the Seiwa Genji. They took the name of their family seat, the Ashikaga estate (荘園 or 庄園 shōen) in Shimotsuke Province (下野国 Shimotsuke no kuni, modern-day Tochigi Prefecture). Yoshiyasu’s son Ashikaga Yoshikane (足利義兼, 1154-1199) distinguished himself in the service of the Minamoto during the Genpei War (源平合戦 Genpei Kassen, 1180-85) between the Minamoto and the Taira, and in 1189 he accompanied Minamoto no Yoritomo, founder and first shogun of the Kamakura shogunate (1192-1333), in a campaign of subjugation against the Northern Fujiwara (奥州藤原氏 Ōshū Fujiwara-shi) in northern Japan.

During that time the Ashikaga began to intermarry with the Hōjō (北条) family, who as shogunal regents (執権 shikken) became the de facto rulers at Kamakura after the death of Yoritomo in 1199. Thanks to their service to the shogunate and their relationship with the Hōjō, during the Kamakura period the Ashikaga extended their influence beyond Shimotsuke into Shimōsa Province (下総国 Shimōsa no Kuni, now part of Chiba and Ibaraki prefectures) and Mikawa Province (三河国 Mikawa no kuni, now part of Aichi Prefecture).

Muromachi Shogunate

In 1333, loyalist forces supporting the cause of Emperor Go-Daigo (後醍醐天皇 Go-Daigo-tennō, 1288-1339) overthrew the Kamakura shogunate. Go-Daigo had been seized by Hōjō officials two years earlier for plotting against the shogunate and had been exiled to the Oki Islands in the Sea of Japan. His followers continued to resist in the central provinces around Kyōto, and early in 1333, the shogunate dispatched an army from Kamakura under Ashikaga Takauji (足利尊氏, 1305-1358) in an attempt to resolve the problem. Upon reaching the central provinces, however, Takauji announced his support for the loyalists and seized the shogunate offices in Kyōto. A few weeks later Nitta Yoshisada, leader of the other main branch of the Minamoto and also a vassal of the shogunate, followed Takauji’s example, changed sides, and destroyed the headquarters of the Hōjō-dominated regime in Kamakura.

Go-Daigo returned from exile to Kyōto with the intent of restoring direct imperial rule, but his Kenmu Restoration (建武の新政 Kenmu no Shinsei) lasted only three years and was notably unsuccessful. To a great extent, the warrior supporters of the court were divided by a contest between Ashikaga Takauji and Nitta Yoshisada for military control over Japan. Primarily as a result of his clash with Yoshisada, Takauji turned against the restoration government in 1335/36, drove Go-Daigo into the mountainous region around Yoshino (吉野) in present-day Nara Prefecture, and in 1338 established the Muromachi shogunate in Kyōto.

The Ashikaga received their legitimacy from the so-called Northern Court (北朝 Hokuchō), headed by a branch line of the imperial family that reigned in Kyōto, while Go-Daigo and his lineal descendants ruled the Southern Court (南朝 Nanchō) at Yoshino. The first half-century of the Muromachi period is also known as the age of the northern and southern courts. The imperial schism was brought to an end with the return of the southern emperor to Kyōto in 1392 when the Ashikaga promised to reinstate the practice of alternate succession to the throne by the two rival branches of the imperial family.

During the first half of the period of schism, the Ashikaga were obliged not only to wage war against the supporters of the Southern Court but also to deal with conflicts within the shogunate itself. The feuding among the shogunate leaders become so intense that in 1352 Takauji resorted to having his brother Ashikaga Tadayoshi (足利直義, 1306-1352) murdered.

Shogun and shugo

The Muromachi shogunate achieved its highest authority and stability as a governing institution in the late fourteenth and the early fifteenth century under the third shogun, Ashikaga Yoshimitsu (足利義満, 1358-1408). During his rule, the Southern Court no longer posed a serious threat. Moreover, some Ashikaga vassals holding the title of shugo (守護, military governor) had established territorial domains, often extending over two or more provinces, that were concentrated in the central-western regions of Honshū and the island of Shikoku. Yoshimitsu’s success as shōgun lay in his ability to maintain a balance of power between the shogunate and the shugo (also known as shugo daimyō). The principal link between the Ashikaga shogun and shugo was the office of shogunal deputy or governor-general (管領 kanrei), held in rotation by the chieftains of three shugo houses collateral to the Ashikaga: the Hosokawa (細川), Hatakeyama (畠山), and Shiba (斯波) families.

Yoshimitsu’s sons Ashikaga Yoshimochi (足利義持, 1386-1428) and Ashikaga Yoshinori (足利義教, 1394-1441) provided firm leadership in the early fifteenth century. But even during this time, clear signs of a weakening of the Ashikaga hegemony appeared. The Kantō region, which was administered by the head of a branch line of the Ashikaga who styled himself Kantō kubō (関東公方, lit. “shōgun of the east”), had never been adequately subordinate to the shogunate, and it became necessary during Yoshinori’s time to take punitive steps against the kubō Ashikaga Mochiuji (足利基氏, 1398–1439) that led to his suicide in 1439. Although the insubordinate Mochiuji was thus eliminated, there was no suitable successor, and the Kantō region gradually slipped from Ashikaga control. Meanwhile, internal dissent in the form of succession disputes began to plague some of the great shugo houses, including the kanrei houses of Shiba and Hatakeyama. The balance of power between shōgun and shugo, which was the basis of the Ashikaga hegemony, became increasingly precarious.

Decline of the Ashikaga shogunate

The Ōnin War (1467–1477), which was fought mainly in Kyōto, accelerated the end of the Ashikaga clan. Heralded by the various shugo succession disputes mentioned above, it was precipitated by a conflict within the Ashikaga family itself over the successor to the eighth shogun, Ashikaga Yoshimasa (足利義政, 1436-1490). In the fighting that ensued, each side was supported by contending factions within the Shiba and Hatakeyama houses. The war finally came to an end in 1477 however, the Ashikaga power had been destroyed, and Japan had been plunged into the century of disunion known as the “Warring States” or Sengoku Period.

For the remainder of the Muromachi Period, the Ashikaga shoguns exercised little power and became in effect the puppets of their leading vassals. Out of the turmoil of the Sengoku period emerged a new class of daimyō who established territorial domains throughout the country and set the stage for a dynamic process of military unification in the late sixteenth century. By the time of the first of the great unifiers, Oda Nobunaga (1534-82), the Ashikaga shogunate had almost completely crumbled, and Nobunaga, who formally tolerated its continuance for five years after seizing control over Kyōto in 1568 and beginning the major process of unification, finally deposed the fifteenth shogun, Ashikaga Yoshiaki (足利義昭, 1537-1597). Yoshiaki, however, continued to behave as shōgun, encouraged by powerful daimyō until Toyotomi Hideyoshi assumed supreme power, shattering his hopes to ever return to full honours. In 1588, Yoshiaki took the priestly name Shōzan Dōkyū and accepted a stipend from Hideyoshi.

The Ashikaga to present day

While the main branch of the family has disappeared, the Kantō Ashikaga, founded by Takauji’s fourth son Motouji, the first Kantō kanrei (関東管令), and consisting – among others – of the Kamakura and later the Koga branch (the latter established by Ashikaga Shigeuchi who had to flee to Koga) survived the political turmoil. When the fifth and last Koga kubō (古河公坊), Ashikaga Yoshiuji (足利義氏, 1541-1583) died without a male heir, his daughter Ujinohime (足利氏姫) succeeded her father at the young age of nine and took his title. In 1591, Toyotomi Hideyoshi consented to her marriage to Ashikaga Kunitomo, the first son of Ashikaga Yorizumi (足利頼純, died 1601). When Kunitomo died in 1593, she was married to his younger brother Ashikaga Yoriuji, starting a new Ashikaga branch, the Kitsuregawa (喜連川). In the light of their family’s prominence Tokugawa Ieyasu later accorded Kitsuregawa Yoriuji (喜連川頼氏, 1580-1630) the status of a daimyō of the fourth rank or higher, receiving a stipend equivalent to 100,000 koku (approximately 18 million litres of crop yield), although the Kitsuregawa domain in Shimotsuke Province yielded only 4,500 koku.

The Ashikaga thus survived as a minor and inconspicuous daimyō family. The last family head of the Kitsuregawa line, Ashikaga Atsuuji, died in 1983 and since then Ashikaga Yoshihiro, a university professor and a descendant of the Hirashima kubō (平島公坊) of Awa Province (安房国 Awa-no kuni, part of present-day Chiba Prefecture), a family branch established by the eleventh shōgun Ashikaga Yoshizumi (足利 義澄, 1481-1511), has continued to uphold their family traditions.

The Minamoto Ashikaga should not be confused with the clan by the same name who were a branch family of the Japanese Fujiwara clan of court nobles, more specifically Fujiwara no Hidesato of the Northern Fujiwara branch. The clan was a dominant force in the Kantō region during the Heian period (794-1185). It had no direct relation to the samurai Ashikaga clan which ruled Japan under the Ashikaga shogunate.

Patrons of the Arts

Although the Muromachi Period may appear to have been a dark and barbarous age regarding political and social history, it was also a time of glorious cultural achievement, and the Ashikaga shoguns are remembered for their generous patronage of the arts. The two significant spans of cultural flourishing in the Muromachi Period were the age of Yoshimitsu in the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries and the age of Yoshimasa in the late fifteenth century. As the patrons of such arts as the no theatre, linked verse, monochrome ink painting (which was stimulated primarily by the tally trade and cultural intercourse with China), landscape gardening, and the tea ceremony, the Ashikaga shoguns can be characterized as far more gifted in the cultural than in the military sphere of medieval rule.